We’ve often been urged to treat our body as God’s ‘temple’. Today, on this first Sunday of Lent, as we break open the Word, the Tempter flatters to deceive, assailing the temple, twisting words with his pseudo-options.
We would do well to take care not to assume God’s forgiveness by repeatedly taking chances, taking ‘bait’ and ‘testing God’. Pope Francis recently reminded us that God’s wrath is just as great as His mercy! But, let’s test for the positives.
We know that God’s Spirit is in our hearts and therefore we have power. However, the ‘gifts of the Spirit’ are to be used for the glory of God and benefit of our neighbour, NOT for self-aggrandisement.
Similarly, self-gratification, different from self-care, leads to sin against the Holy Spirit and we risk setting up ourselves for self-adulation, so worshipping the icon we’ve created. Note that prayerful submission to God’s Will is then corrupted and the image of God in us becomes disfigured.
The trendy, free thinking of today’s iconoclast sounds cool and important, but it’s really a choice of a downward spiral to hell. Break that mould. Step away from that pinnacle. Calm down, ask why you’re heading that way and reset your alignment.
As we look inward and seek cleansing forgiveness, each of us longs for remission of debts—whatever they are, we seek liberation from our undesirable past and healing of relationships—reconciliation with God and with community. This submission to forgiveness frees us to truly live under God’s reign in His Kingdom.
Franciscan theologian Kenan Osbourne suggests that the ‘Kingdom’ can be represented as God’s presence, love, compassion, mercy, power, justice, holiness, goodness, creativeness, grace and caring connectivity with Him! All of that we can enjoy!
So, the devil’s deceit is proven to be empty promises before the cache of those real riches. What better vision as we journey through Lent, looking within, tilling those treasures and throwing away temptation!
Yet, the things we crave and which influence our choices often make us fall and poison our true identity. Although not condoning our sin, God’s reign excludes none. So, in Jesus’ openness to sinners, He offers communion, inclusion, which can prompt repentance.
According to Dr Ben F Meyer in The Aims of Jesus, his example showed that “conversion flowered from communion”, a beautiful blossoming of spirit wished for us all as sinners worthy of redemption. He draws us in, regardless of our fragility.
The daunting call to holiness is challenging, especially when the lure of earthly rewards seems so sweet and shiny. Subtle deception it is! In addition to the need to refocus on the real horizon of our Lord’s outstretched arms of surety and safety in submitting to His Will, each of us is also called to respond to other elements of caring for self and neighbour.
This Lent, as our Archdiocese strives to realise a new way of animating Church, ordained ministers, consecrated persons and laity are challenged to develop our human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral gifts for better focused care and patient presence. The journey would require prayer, reflection and strongly submissive spirits to get the job done.
Let’s test for positives, throwing away systemic and personal evils, aiming for joyful discovery and oneness with God! When the Tempter returns, turn him back, confident that you would be kept safe with a strong, prayerful spirit!